Grabowski's Is Bringing Its Chicago Tavern-Style Pies to Lakewood | Westword

Chicago Tavern-Style Pizzeria Grabowski's Is Making a Comeback in Lakewood

It's taking over the space that was home to Frontroom Pizza for over three decades, then Roca's for a year.
The future home of Grabowski's, where Frontroom Pizza operated for decades.
The future home of Grabowski's, where Frontroom Pizza operated for decades. Grabowski's/Instagram
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While the Windy City's thin, square-cut, tavern-style pizzas are trending in Denver, one of the places that helped popularize the genre shut its doors in May.

Restaurateur Jared Leonard, who's from Chicago, opened Grabowski's in 2019 inside the Source. But that location "was never the right fit from the beginning," Leonard says. "It operated okay through COVID, but it was kind of limping along." Besides, he adds, "rent has already gone up to two to three times what I think it should be."

So he closed it, but he always intended to bring the restaurant back. And an opportunity came along almost right away. Around the same time that Grabowski's said goodbye, chef and restaurateur Alex Seidel announced that he was shutting down Roca's, the pizzeria he'd opened a year before at 13785 West Jewell Avenue in Lakewood, which had been the longtime home of Frontroom Pizza. "I called Alex right away. I was immediately interested," Leonard says.

When another deal on the space fell through, he was able to secure it for the future home of Grabowski's 2.0. "It couldn't be a more perfect space and perfect area," notes Leonard, who also opened a second location of Campfire, his Evergreen eatery, in Lakewood in January.

"It's a family neighborhood, and Grabowski's is a family pizzeria," Leonard explains. "Plus, there's the fact that it was a family pizzeria for decades before."
click to enlarge a pepperoni and sausage pizza
Grabowski's square-cut slices are coming back.
Grabowski's Pizzeria/Facebook
Before signing the deal, though, Leonard had to make sure the Roca's ovens would produce pies that were up to his standard. "I spent an afternoon doing a pizza workshop," he says. "The results were better than expected. We're going to be able to produce the same quality, but we're going to be able to do it faster."

That also means that he'll be able to expand his delivery business; he plans to hire drivers in-house to serve the residential neighborhood of Green Mountain.

The building has a much better layout than what Leonard had at the original Grabowski's. The pinball machines, for example, which were relegated to an upstairs space at the Source, will have a new home in a side room that will also function as a space for parties.

There is a much larger kitchen, too, so Leonard can expand his offerings. "When I first opened at the Source, we had Italian beefs and meatball sandwiches on the menu," he recalls, but he removed all the sandwiches during COVID. "That's something we'll definitely be leaning into," he says, adding that he also hopes to bring on more classic red-sauce dishes, like lasagna and chicken parm.

Beyond some cosmetic changes, bringing in the pinball machines from his garage and passing a health inspection, Leonard expects the process of opening the new Grabowski's to be smooth. "The City of Lakewood has been really, really good to do business with so far," he says.

If all goes as planned, Leonard hopes to hold the grand opening of Grabowski's 2.0 sometime around Labor Day weekend, which would be the four-year anniversary of the original Grabowski's. And when the doors do open, Leonard promises that guests will be able to order a Chicago handshake — aka an ice-cold Old Style and a shot of Malört — to go with their Chicago tavern-style pie.
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